By: Jeanne Grunert
Published: July 5th, 2012
If you’re a small business owner, you probably struggle to find time and money to market and promote your business. Questions swirl around in your mind: what should you spend on first? Is it important to have a website for your business or to run ads in the local newspaper? One person you talk to says it’s a good idea to buy promotional items like pens and give them away. Another person you talk to insists that postcard marketing is the way to go. How can you, as a small business owner with a limited budget, get your products and services out into the public in a big way without breaking the bank?
There are several steps you can take to overcome these challenges:
- Focus and define not what you do or sell, but how it helps other people. That’s called the benefit statement. No matter what kind of promotional activity you’re doing for your business, knowing the benefits you want to share with your customers and sharing them consistently can go a long way to helping your marketing efforts be successful.
- Who are your best potential customers? As a consultant, I hear over and over from small business owners “Oh, everyone is my customer.” Even bottled water has a unique market (not everyone buys or appreciates bottled water, believe it or not.) So who are your customers? Are they local, national? Are your customers men, women, teens, children? What age are they, what do they look like, what problems do they have that only your business can solve? Sit down and write-up a short description of your ideal customers. Like knowing the benefits your company provides, knowing who your ideal customers can help you communicate with them better and, more importantly, weed out any marketing opportunities that do not reach them.
- Focus your marketing efforts on the big picture stuff first. If your company needs a website, hire a professional within the budget you can afford to create a great website that accomplishes your business goals. If you own a retail store, concentrate on making the store experience wonderful to build word of mouth referrals.
- Create a great website for your business. No matter what your business does, in today’s world, people go online to research everything under the sun. If your business doesn’t have a website, you run the risk of missing potential customers. But don't settle for any old website or let your best friend slap together something. First impressions are always lasting impressions, and a sloppy site can also turn off prospective customers.
- Now when it comes time to choose the marketing activities for your business, compare the audience or people the activity will reach with the profile you created of your ideal customer. Will you reach your ideal customer if you run that newspaper ad? When you know who your ideal customer is, you can spot opportunities to reach them through various marketing activities.
I’m a big fan of marketing plans. If your eyes glaze over and you yawn at the thought of creating a marketing plan, think of it this way. Most people draw up a financial plan for their life; a simple budget, let’s say, so that they know what money they have each week to pay the rent, the utility bill, the phone bill, etc. A marketing plan helps you figure out why, when and how to promote your business so that you can put your resources behind efforts that have the best potential. Without a marketing plan, you run the risk of diluting your resources or running marketing campaigns when you ‘have the time.’ And let’s face it – what small business owner can actually say, “I have time today. Let me work on that.” Most small business owners don’t have time to tie their shoelaces much less focus on creating a marketing plan!
These basics can help you organize and think about your marketing plan for your small business in a very general way. For specific advice, it’s best to find a great marketing consultant or agency you can trust to guide you through the process.
About The Author:
Jeanne Grunert is the president of Seven Oaks Consulting, a marketing and writing firm that helps businesses focus and clarify their marketing messages and strategies to attract new business. Her expert insights, motivational seminars, and inspiring writing have helped many small business owners achieve their goals. Visit Seven Oaks Consulting to learn more.
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